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Christie’s Non-Responses on Iran

Dave Weigel catalogues [1] the failings of Sunday talk show hosts in interviewing Chris Christie yesterday. He’s mostly right about the easy questions that Christie was asked, but I don’t think this example supports the larger point:

It starts with George Stephanopoulos asking Christie about the interview the show just aired with John Kerry—”What would you need to see from Iran in order to support relieving sanctions?” When Christie whiffs and insists that “there are people who are significantly better briefed on this than I am as the governor of New Jersey,” the host moves on.

In fairness to Christie and the hosts that asked him about Iran, the questions were forced ones [2] designed to get him to talk about something that happened to be in the news that week. I doubt anyone seriously expected him to have an answer to those questions, and there was no point in belaboring the issue when it was clear that he wasn’t going to comment. Christie would have been foolish to hold forth on subject that he admits he doesn’t know very well, and he said as much. This is a relatively rare example of a would-be national politician acknowledging that he doesn’t have a well-informed view of a major foreign policy issue, and unlike many others that are just as uninformed Christie smartly chose not to bluff his way out. At this stage in his career, Mitt Romney was already making a fool of himself [3] by inserting himself into debates about Iran for no reason except to raise his national profile. It is to Christie’s credit that he isn’t doing the same thing.

In fact, Christie was right to refrain from commenting on the negotiations. Goodness knows there is no shortage of would-be saboteurs that want to undermine them without adding any more to the mix. The problem with these questions wasn’t that the hosts didn’t attempt to pin Christie down on the issue, but that the hosts thought that it made sense for a governor with zero foreign policy experience to say something about it in the first place. Christie was correct when he said [4], “I’m not the right person to being asking that question.” If Christie pretended to be some sort of authority on foreign policy issues, or if he had built his reputation around his judgment on foreign policy, that answer wouldn’t make sense, but in his case it was probably the only honest answer that he could have given.

12 Comments (Open | Close)

12 Comments To "Christie’s Non-Responses on Iran"

#1 Comment By Ron Beasley On November 11, 2013 @ 2:03 pm

Christie is a very shrewd politician. He really answered no policy questions.

#2 Comment By James Canning On November 11, 2013 @ 2:06 pm

I see it as a good thing that Christie avoided a blunder or two in the style of Mitt Romney.

#3 Comment By EngineerScotty On November 11, 2013 @ 2:17 pm

Well, as long as Christie’s political ambitions begin and end in Trenton, this is fine. Governors need not know or care about foreign policy, particularly the military end of the business.

But if he does have national ambitions, he needs to learn this stuff–or surround himself with (alleged) experts. Palin didn’t know squat about the subject, and got hammered for it. W didn’t know anything either (about it or anything else), but had convincing-sounding advisors. Clinton and Obama (the latter not a governor, but a Senator with a short career) were both willing and eager to crack open books and ask questions.

If he wants to be President, he needs to have a passable knowledge of foreign policy. Not necessarily now, but if he’s still ducking these questions in 2015 or 2016, that is a big red flag.

#4 Comment By Michael N Moore On November 11, 2013 @ 3:28 pm

It is very telling that he didn’t give the Likudnik-NeoCon-MIC auto response of “war good”, “Muslims bad”. A few months ago Christie was clearly jockeying for the war lobby’s money by positioning himself against the anti-interventionism of Rand Paul.

#5 Comment By balconesfault On November 11, 2013 @ 3:43 pm

I think the healthiest sign is that there’s a Republican who doesn’t leap at every opportunity to bash Obama and the Democrats.

Too often, it feels as if that’s the gist of an awful lot of GOP commentary these days … throwing red meat to the base is a lot more important than considering the long-term implications of what you’re saying. And it does lead to the types of silliness you pointed out vis a vis Romney.

The question will be – will the base support someone who won’t be throwing them red meat? We already heard howls of derision thrown at Christie for greeting Obama the way he did during the Sandy response, rather than greeting the President a la Jan Brewer. And in my mind one of the reasons Huntsman’s campaign never grew wings in 2012 was because early on he focused on discussing policy differences instead of just taking potshots at his former boss.

#6 Comment By Mark Vadnais On November 11, 2013 @ 4:00 pm

The Republican Party will nominate either Chris Christie or Jeb Bush in 2016. They both support the big brother surveillance state and big government overseas.

#7 Comment By EngineerScotty On November 11, 2013 @ 4:30 pm

James Inhofe thinks it’s all Christie’s fault that Romney is not president:

[5]

#8 Comment By Tim On November 11, 2013 @ 5:40 pm

I am not a big fan of Christie – he’s too far to the right wing for me. But come on – the guy is a governor. I realize he is preening himself for a 2016 presidential run but right now he is a governor of a state – therefore asking him foreign policy questions is a tad above his pay grade at the moment.

#9 Comment By David T On November 11, 2013 @ 7:23 pm

“It is very telling that he didn’t give the Likudnik-NeoCon-MIC auto response of “war good”, “Muslims bad”. A few months ago Christie was clearly jockeying for the war lobby’s money by positioning himself against the anti-interventionism of Rand Paul.”

No, he criticized Rand Paul for his libertarianism (on NSA spying, etc.) not his anti-interventionist foreign policy. The two things are not the same. You can be wary of the US getting into more foreign wars and at the same time pro-spying or conversely you can be a hawkish civil libertarian.

#10 Comment By Michael N Moore On November 11, 2013 @ 9:58 pm

David T,

In August,Christie attacked Rand Paul’s “very dangerous foreign policy ideas”. I think this was prior to the NSA controversies.

[6]

#11 Comment By David T On November 11, 2013 @ 10:40 pm

When Antle said “It all began when Christie blasted Paul’s “very dangerous” foreign-policy ideas” he, not Christie, is the one who inserted the words “foreign policy.” And yes, this was post-Snowden (the Snowden revelations began in May.) Christie called libertarianism, not isolationism, a “very dangerous” idea.

As the New York Times noted

“The governor invoked the Sept. 11 attacks to criticize those who, like Senator Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican who is a potential rival for the 2016 presidential nomination, have questioned whether government surveillance efforts have trampled on civil liberties…” [7]

#12 Comment By Puller58 On November 12, 2013 @ 7:59 am

But it will come down to Christie versus Paul on foreign policy if Paul can somehow stop himself from being a gaffe machine. Christie is NOT going to upset AIPAC.